The Essential Nature of Positive Feedback 

Talking behind each others back, leaving the “hard” baskets/patients for someone else, being annoyed by co-workers, being grumpy or negative with others.  These are all things that tear down a dispensary team.  One of the root causes for this kind of behaviour is the tolerance of a culture that allows this type of behaviour.  But how do we tackle it?  How do we foster a more positive culture that builds up the team instead of tearing it down? 

One critical piece is positive feedback.  This may seem counter intuitive when it seems that taking a heavy hand and “correcting” these behaviours seems to be what’s called for, but no amount of punishment or strong arming will prevent negativity and back biting to seep into the dispensary. 

Why does positive feedback work?   When we do not understand our value as an individual and as a member of the team, we will unconsciously find ways to feel important by either seeking attention and needing to be “right”, or by criticizing or talking negatively about others to over inflate our own sense of importance.  Both of these will tear down your team.   The less people understand how their hard work contributes to the team and to shared goals, the less engaged they are and more prone to frustration, failure and negativity.

Leaders need to sit down regularly with team members and lay out for them what their real contributions to the team are.  What their unique gifts and talents bring to the team and how they are essential to the team and organization thriving. 

Why don’t we provide positive feedback regularly?  Several reasons can be at work here.

  • We assume people know their strengths and how they contribute
  • Fear that if we tell people how important they are, they will “take their foot off the gas” and slow down production. 
  • Fear that if we focus on the positives then the negatives will be seen as “okay”
  • Fear of being vulnerable in discussing and sharing at this level
  • Not devoting time as a leader to recognizing the talents and contributions of team members.

I have learned through experience that each of these are false assumptions

Some of my most happy and productive team members, who I would think need no affirmation at all, are usually the most in doubt of their essential contribution to the team and what their unique talents are. 

I’ve also learned that focusing on the positive does NOT slow down production and efficiency.  As a matter of fact, it does the opposite.  Team members feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm and purpose and cooperation when their contributions are pointed out to them and they feel they are essential to the team and the business.  (All team members have essential contributions, even our most challenging ones, and all of them need to be recognized in this way.)

When we focus on the positives with our team it does not discount the work on the “negatives”  As a matter of fact, acknowledging the contributions and unique skills of a team member builds trust and vulnerability, two essential qualities in personal and team growth.  In the posture of trust it is then easy to bring up and discuss issues that each team member needs to work on.  Everyone has areas that require growth including the leader.  When trust is cultivated and maintained, then the vulnerability it takes to have these discussions and do this work flows naturally on both sides. 

The fear of sharing at a deeper level with team members is real.  Not everyone is comfortable with being vulnerable.  My advice is two part.  First, do your own work.  Confront your fears with having deeper levels of conversation and work through it.  Secondly, take baby steps into it with your team members.  Start out with sharing a little about yourself and your reasons for meeting with them, and focus on just one or two things that are obvious and easy to discuss. 

Lastly is time.  It is so hard to just take the time for something that is so important but easy to let slide.  When steeped in “management” duties, it is very easy to forget the critical importance of leadership.  But taking the time for developing your leadership skills, reflecting on each of your staffs development and your relationship to them as a leader, makes management so much easier.  Taking that Ten Minute Check In” is the difference between just plugging along as a team or thriving as a team.   Take the time for it and for your own development as a leader.


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